Who Is On Your Property Management Team

Who Is On Your Property Management Team

By Michael Haynie, SR., President, Parkway Hospitality Management

Take a lesson from professional sports teams. How many times has the addition of one too many superstars resulted in the whole being the lesser of the sum of the parts?

Your property management team should be carefully engineered, similar to a professional sports team, to ensure that important players are in place and that there are not too many superstars. Teams must be crafted to include a variety of personalities, capabilities, skill sets and inclinations; a matrix of supportive and complementary strengths and weaknesses. The leadership challenge is to ensure that necessary role players both understand and are recognized for the value of those roles.

You're Front Office Manager or Rooms Division Executive may be a brilliant revenue and inventory management strategist, a great forecaster, and good with the numbers but lacks the necessary set of people skills. Behind that position must be a person who can communicate the strategy in an understandable way to those who must understand it and execute it. These two different skill sets are critical to overall success and are clearly codependent. Both of the people mentioned above must be recognized for their contribution and both must perform consistent with the overall vision for the property.

One of the most important aspects of a hotel besides friendliness is cleanliness. The Executive Housekeeper, besides the General Manager, is in my estimation the most important person on the property management team (sorry Director of Sales and Marketing) They say cleanliness is next to godliness and in a hotel environment where most guests realize that perhaps thousands of people have slept in the beds, walked on the rugs, and used the bathrooms, it is up to the Executive Housekeeper to give the appearance as if no one has stayed in the guestrooms before. This starts with how clean the exterior, lobby, elevator tracks etc appear to be. As a result, this is a hands on position which requires much walking and inspecting, and a must be filled by a person who is in good shape. In addition the Executive Housekeeper must be a "people person," someone who is a natural communicator and gets along well with everyone. The ability to multi task is crucial as well. The rooms division department can make or break your profitability margins and the Executive Housekeeper has to have an expert understanding of financials. I always look for someone in this position who wants the General Manager's job and in my experience, the better General Managers have been Executive Housekeepers at one point in their career. The successful one's "get it". My best tip on hiring a great Executive Housekeeper is to go their house to interview or take a ride in their car. If they keep their own environment clean and organized, there is a good chance they will do the same for your property.

One of the finest F&B professionals I have ever met, worked for me in a corporate capacity. This person had an amazing scope of knowledge, was a great planner (on paper), creative, and ultimately worthless. Worthless because he was incapable of communicating the vision to the staff or training others in the skill sets he had acquired and mastered; worthless because instead of surrounding himself with the counterpoints to his skill set, he surrounded himself with like-minded personalities with similar skill sets. His inability to communicate combined with the lack of supportive capabilities infused the organization with a non-communicative, technically driven culture that, in short order, became a circular firing squad as service levels declined, top line revenues dissipated, and the lack of connectivity between executive management planning and line level understanding and execution broadened.

Your management team is a direct reflection of your leadership skills, experience, and vision. The temptation to assemble a clone army is an ever present comfort zone. The natural tendency is to surround yourself with like-minded team members who are similar to yourself. While general philosophical compatibility is important, that compatibility must take a backseat when evaluating applicable skill sets and personality types.

A great team requires individuals with vision; it also requires individuals with a dogged commitment to detail execution. It requires both superior technicians and individuals with exceptional people skills; great planners and those focused on execution and detail orientation. A great team requires individuals with the ability to think creatively about solutions and organizational evolution; it also requires that those individuals are willing to apply the solutions.

The Director of Sales and Marketing along with the General Manager is responsible for the financial health of the property. If you don't generate revenue, you will have nothing to spend or count, and will be unable to buy anything. The Director of Sales and Marketing has to be a very personable person who knows how to motive a team and get results without using tactics such as intimidation and fear. In other words, your Director of Sales and Marketing must have great mentoring and nurturing skills. The better sales departments today, grow their own sales team. The Director of Sales and Marketing should be a highly organized person who is the consummate team player, with the utmost respect for other departments in the hotel. They should realize that without the housekeeping and service staffs, the product they have will be that much more difficult to sell. I look very closely when hiring this position and evaluate their negotiating skills when they negotiating with me. If they are likely to leave money on the table when doing their own deal or do not probe me or take advantage of all opportunities, they will probably do the same when dealing with potential business clients. This also suggests they may be poor closers or not very detail oriented. I believe that when hiring sales people, you should go to lunch as part of the hiring process to test the applicants "tact and diplomacy." These potential employees will be representing you in the business community and you want to make certain they understand relationships. I feel that this position sits just below General Manager, so I am also very interested in their career aspirations as well.

Great teams also require great leadership, the more talented the team the more a reliable leader who takes accountability is needed, and the more carefully structured the matrix of personalities and capabilities must be.

The most important player on your property management team is the coach or leader, who in this case is the General Manager. This is the make or break position within a hotel. Not only must this leader be one who is knowledgeable of the hospitality industry, but he or she must be a great mentor, listener, psychologist, mother/father and just about everything else imaginable. Above all, he or she must be someone that the other employees trust and listen to. Trust and integrity is one factor you will sense when hiring this great leader, their resume will expose very little in this direction, but a gut feeling or your humanist side will pick this up right away. General knowledge of hotel operations is paramount and a firm understanding of the financial aspects of property management is crucial, but a proactive approach to sales and marketing is the real key here, as the bottom line to this key leadership position is the ability of this person to keep business coming into the property, so employees can enjoy a paycheck and owners can profit from their investment. The "manage from the front" or "driver of the bus" theory is a philosophy you will want the General Manager to have. This will ensure they are well informed of what is happening at the property and will give them the ability to positively affect the hotel environment, which is crucial from the guest perspective. Take your time in hiring for this position and choose as though you were looking for a life partner, as the General Manager will make or break your property and profit line.

The bottom line here is to approach your hiring team as pro sports teams do. Do your research on the candidates and look for the best in the market. Don't always go to the usual references; instead speak with family members or former teachers. Department Head team members at the property level are crucial to the success of your organization, and the most important ones need to be identified well before they start, you must also determine how they will fit in with your style of managing and where your weaknesses may be. Most of all value these team members and treat them as family, since you will certainly spend as much time with them as you do your spouse and kids.

Michael Haynie has devoted his entire professional career to the lodging and hospitality industry. After attending Northeastern University in Boston, MA, he took on various entry level positions before rising through the ranks to the executive level positions he has held for many years. Mr. Haynie has experience in every facet of hotel operations and has served in leadership capacities in hotels ranging from economy to luxury. Prior to launching his own hotel management enterprise, Mr. Haynie served as the Vice-President and Managing Director of Baltimore’s Tremonts Hotels which encompassed the upscale Tremont Plaza Hotel and the economy Tremont Park Hotel. Mr. Haynie, SR. can be contacted at 443-604-3835 or [email protected]